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Embassy Row: Dumping Danny

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As Israel's ambassador to the United States, Danny Ayalon developed a strong friendship with President George W. Bush and personally arranged a multibillion-dollar U.S. loan package that allowed the Jewish state to raise foreign funds at low interest rates.

He developed deep contacts with Jewish-Americans and members of Congress.

Mr. Ayalon was one of Israel's most effective ambassadors when he served in Washington from 2002 to 2006. He retired from the foreign service after ending his diplomatic tour in the United States, and won a seat in the Israeli parliament in 2009 as a member of the Israel Beiteinu party.

The party leader, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, named him his deputy that same year.

However, Mr. Ayalon's fast-rising political career crashed unceremoniously this week, when Mr. Lieberman dumped him from the party list of candidates for the Jan. 22 parliamentary elections.

Mr. Lieberman offered no explanation for removing Mr. Ayalon as he read the names of the party's candidates in parliament on Tuesday.

Mr. Ayalon said Mr. Lieberman informed him earlier in the day that he was being dropped from the party list, and he later issued a simple statement on his Facebook page.

"I will continue to work tirelessly until the end of my mandate," Mr. Ayalon said.

The Israeli press is full of speculation over the reasons Mr. Lieberman dumped Mr. Ayalon, but most analysts agreed that the foreign minister had been growing impatient with his deputy for seeking the limelight in the press.

Mr. Lieberman suspected Mr. Ayalon of an "unforgivable sin – serial leaks to diplomatic reporters," said Yossi Verter in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Mr. Ayalon also may have damaged his reputation in a diplomatic flap in 2010, when as deputy foreign minister, he publicly embarrassed Turkey's ambassador to Israel, Ahmet Oguz Celikkol.

Mr. Ayalon summoned Mr. Celikkol to the Foreign Ministry to complain about an anti-Semitic Turkish television program that portrayed Israeli secret service agents killing elderly Turkish men and kidnapping a Muslim baby to convert to Judaism.

In the meeting, Mr. Ayalon refused to display the Turkish flag – a normal diplomatic courtesy – and pointed out to reporters that he sat Mr. Celikkol on a low sofa, which was widely seen as a display of Mr. Ayalon's contempt for the Turkish diplomat.

He later apologized to Mr. Celikkol for the insult.

'Bubba' and 'The Devil'

The press loves rumors – especially when no one denies them.

The latest speculation in the diplomatic world has President Obama appointing former President Bill Clinton as ambassador to Ireland and Anna Wintour, the British-born editor of Vogue magazine, as ambassador to her native land.

The rumor about Miss Wintour – the inspiration for the title character in the novel and film "The Devil Wears Prada" – has been kicking round the British press since late spring.

Embassy Row, which also loves rumors, reported on Miss Wintour, a major Obama fundraiser, in June, while others in the American media, like Fox News, recently picked up the story.

Irish reporters apparently are convinced that Mr. Clinton will be coming to Dublin as ambassador.

"The U.S. Embassy has refused to rule out" the rumors, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton "failed to kill [the] speculation" Thursday when asked about the reports in Dublin, where she met with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, the Irish Independent said.

"I cannot comment on what President Obama might do in the second term but I think that my husband would be here many times in the future doing the work he has been doing without having to have the title, 'ambassador,'" she said.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or email jmorrison@washingtontimes.com. The column is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
James Morrison

James Morrison

James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...

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